She hung up when his phone rang once. Her heart was threating to rip her chest apart and while holding her face in her hands, she wondered if she was doing the right thing. What was she going to say when he answered? Wait, what if he never answered? Would she be able to live with it? She observed a brief moment of silence, took in quick deep breaths and thought about what she was about to do. Was she really ready to give him the impression that she missed him so badly? Yes, she convinced herself. Now was not the right time to play games. Tony was doing the right thing, and she needed to join him if they were to stand a chance of being together. She dialled his number again and after the second ring, he answered. His voice was so deep it turned her knees into rubber, so she slowly sat down on the edge of her bed, again finding it difficult to breathe.
“Sweetheart, are you there?”
Her eyes, her lips, and her spirit smiled all at once. He called her sweetheart. She couldn’t believe it. He still called her sweetheart? Even after walking away and then eventually, running away from him? He still called her sweetheart. And it wasn’t just in his calling her sweetheart that melted her heart, it was in the way he said it. The way it rolled off his tongue with ease like lyrics from the lips of Ed Sheeran. She could feel her racing heart and anxious nerves calming down. Her breathing evened out too. She always missed him, but never knew how much until this moment.
“I can hear you breathing, you know,” he said. His voice was still calm and patient. Like he was ready to hold on on the line until he heard her voice. Until she actually spoke to him. She imagined him sitting in the living room, leaning back against the couch like someone who had all the time in the world.
“Are you surprised that I am still breathing?” she finally said in a barely audible whisper.
“Surprised, no. Disappointed, yes.”
“Disappointed? I know we have had so many problems, thanks to you, but I never knew you wished me dead?”
“It’s not me. You are the one who once told me that you couldn’t go a day without me. That you will simply die if you had to. Well, it has been weeks now since you run away and guess what, you are still breathing. So I am disappointed because you lied to me.”
She laughed. “First of all, I did not run away. Your mum asked me over and I came, just didn’t think it was a good idea to tell you first. And secondly, I have never said that I will die if I were to go a day without you. Come on, I have better lines than that.”
He chuckled, “So how are you doing?”
“I can’t believe it myself but I am feeling much better now that I am talking to you. What about you? How are you doing?”
“I am fine. How’s is my son?”
“I told you it’s a girl.”
“Well, we will see about that,” he said with a lowered voice, paused, and then said, “I miss you.”
“I didn’t know you can write.”
He knew what she was doing. She did not want to admit that she missed him too and it was okay with him. But instead of answering her question, he veered into other things, like whether she was spending the nights in his room or not. It had never occurred to her until now that she could have chosen to spend her nights in his room ever since she came over, and from his asking it was obvious like it would really break his heart if she said No. So she lied that she was. His voice lowered, and a hint of pride could be felt from it as he said, “Awesome.” And then almost immediately added, “Hey, thanks for calling but I have to go. See you later.”
Did he say he will see me later? No, I think he meant to say he will talk to me later. She held the phone closer to her heart for a while, enjoying the new found peace that was reigning in her.
That evening, Tony’s mum came home to find her in the kitchen cooking dinner. Eve heard the clacking of heels so she turned around to see her leaning against the door, holding a black purse. She was smiling. She was always smiling. And Eve thought it was because of her constant smiling that she looked 20 years younger her age.
“You are welcome, mum,” she said, her own smile getting the better of her. It was obvious from how her body reeked of excitement that something or someone had triggered her happy nerve, and her mother-in-law thought she knew why.
“He finally called you, didn’t he?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Come on, my daughter. Since you came to this house, I have never seen you this happy. I don’t mean that you have been sad, but today you look different.”
“You are wrong.”
“Yes. He did not call me. I called him.”
“I didn’t want to. But after reading this story he wrote on Danny’s blog, I couldn’t help it.”
“A story Tony wrote? Since when did Tony write?”
“You are asking me? Anyway, it was a beautiful piece. He wrote about us and as soon as I was done reading it, I called him and honestly, I am glad I did.”
“I am glad you did too.” She pushed herself off the door and walked closer to Eve. “You know, as much as I am on your side, I am also on my son’s side. The reason why I asked you over was to minimise the damage that could happen to your relationship. I wanted you to be in a safe and calm environment, and at the same time give Tony time to wrap his head around all that is happening in his life. And if you say you are glad you called him, then I imagine that he has finally come to his senses.”
“I believe he has. Though we didn’t say much, I have this feeling that he is working towards something great. Something we will all appreciate.”
“I will not be surprised. I also knew that getting you away from him will get his brain to start functioning again.”
“You are one smart woman, aren’t you?”
“I don’t mean to brag, but I am.”
They both laughed. Eve was truly grateful that Tony’s mum had invited her over. And she did not find it difficult to come over because they both liked each other a lot. She, if everything stayed as they were, was going to have the best mother -in-law ever. A thoughtful, loving mother-in-law. She had proven just how loving she could be by taking good care of her ever since Eve stepped foot in her house. Tony’s mother excused herself and went to freshen up as Eve finished with the cooking. Later, as they sat down to eat, Eve asked her if she could move into Tony’s room.
“Sure. You don’t even need to ask.”
“Thank you. You know, when I talked to him he asked if I was staying in his room and I lied that I was. And I could tell that he was happy that despite everything, I still agreed to stay in his room.”
“That boy loves you. I should know because you are the only woman he has ever introduced me to.”
“And that counts for something, yes?”
“It sure does. It takes a lot of balls for a man to introduce his woman to his mother. More often that not, they do so only when they are serious about that woman.”
Eve smiled. She was amused Tony’s mum had used balls in her sentence. She had never pictured her as a woman who would use balls in her sentence but nevertheless, she was happy that she had so much faith in her. When time was right, she dragged her bag downstairs to Tony’s room. His mother told her that he chose the downstairs room because he claimed that as the man of the house, he needed to be closer to the main door just in case someone broke in and attempted to harm her.
“Though between you and me,” she said, “I think he chose the room downstairs so that he can sneak in girls without my knowledge.”
“I believe you,” Eve said with a laugh.
She was surprised at how neat and elegant the room was. A King Size divan bed was right at the centre of the room and beside it a short cabinet with two watches and a picture frame on top of it. She opened a wooden cabinet and run her fingers through the neatly arranged clothes, yanked a white T-shirt from a hanger and laid it on top of the bed. She stripped down to her pants and slid on that white T-shirt which, luckily, was big enough to accommodate her bump. There was also a full-length mirror in the room, which she went and stood in front of, imagining Tony being in there with her. She pictured him walking out of the bathroom, a towel around his waist, walking towards her and wrapping his arms around her waist from behind, before proceeding to whisper things to her ear.
The framed picture was of Tony when he was around twelve. In that photo, he was dressed in a white oversized shirt tucked in his black jeans, and leaning against a wall. His left hand was thrust deep in his pocket while the right one simply hung beside him like he was unsure of what to do with it. Eve looked at the photo and marvelled at how, his oversized shirt and reebok sports shoe notwithstanding, he still looked beyond handsome. And innocent. Handsome and innocent. On a closer look, she noticed that Tony wasn’t really looking at the camera man by the time that shot was taken. His head was slightly tilted to his left side, and his gaze seemed to have been attracted to something or someone else other than the cameraman. Was he looking at someone else or was he thinking of someone else? Eve wondered. But she shook those thoughts of her head, he was too young to be thinking of someone else other than himself.
She stared at that photo for a long time, taking in all the handsomeness that was Tony, and for the first time, she rubbed her bump and also hoped that the baby she was carrying was a boy. She figured if it was a boy, he would look just like his father, and grow up to terrorise women, just like his father. There, she reprimanded herself, she did not want a son who would terrorise women, but with a wicked smile, she did not want a son who would keep them guessing on whether he was straight.
She lay the picture on her chest, stretched her hand above her head and switched off the lights. The night was still. Unlike the village where the unruly dogs barked all night in competition with the croaking frogs and chirping crickets, nights in the city were pretty much calm. Especially since they were in the suburbs where noisy matatus were a myth. She closed her eyes and tried to catch some sleep, but all she could see was Tony as an adult, and then as a kid, leaning against the wall, hand thrust in his pocket. Beautiful memories conducted salsa dance lessons in her head and she was loving it, until when she thought she heard some movement in the living room. She remembered what her mother-in-law said about Tony sleeping in the downstair’s room because of thieves. But again, there was a security guard at the gate and the house was well secured, so she concluded she was hearing things.
But she remained still and listened in again, and this time she thought she heard the main door opening and closing. There was this sound it made when you opened and closed it that it was difficult to miss. She started panicking. Her first instinct was to scream or run upstairs, but again, she found herself turning on the lights and slowly walking towards the door. She hadn’t locked it, she remembered. She tiptoed to the door, and with every step she took, all the hair on her body stood alert. She increased her speed and was just about to turn the key when the door flew open. She opened her mouth to scream but a hand was already covering her mouth.
“Calm down, sweetheart, remember I told you I will see you later?” She had closed her eyes in fear and so she opened them slowly after hearing this very familiar voice. Her eyes widened, her lips trembled, and her voice was shaky when she said, “Tony?”